“As the month of Av enters one diminishes their joy” (see Ta’nit 29a),Schulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 551:1 Sha’arei Zion 1). One is advised not to litigate during this period as the season is inauspicious. Though there are many reason why the Ninth of Av is observed as a fast the main event which overshadows the others is the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem 68 CE.. It is the loss of the Temple which more than anything else that symbolizes the present state of exile. Consider that even if one is an Israeli soldier billeted on the Temple Mount still recites Shabbat Morning in Mussaf “ . . .[M]ay it be Your will G-D and G-D of our ancestors that we joyously ascend to our land and be planted within our borders . . .” and on holidays “ . . . Because of our sins we were cast in to exile, out of our homeland and distanced from property . . . .”
This is such a powerful image the surrounding environs are those of a modern city complete with traffic jams and inflated real estate. The evidence of destruction are echoes from a past, nearly two thousand years old. The principle omission from Jerusalem reclaiming its former glory is the Temple’s absence. The dichotomy between the signs of renewal and return and the continuing state of exile implies that at its core the state of exile that holds back the redemption is something that cannot be characterized as physical but attitudinal and spiritual.
Though observations concerning the exile and its remedy abound in rabbinic literature maybe the cumulative effect over the generations will be like water hallowing out a stone and what is added here can have a positive effect on both the reader and writer to correct what appears as a persistent chronic issue that holds back the fulfillment of Jewry’s destiny
The Talmud (Yoma 9b) contrasts the first and second Temple societies. Though the First Temple was destroyed because of the prevalence of Idol worship, immorality and murder were prevalent. However, the Second Temple’s contemporaries were occupied with Torah study and observance of Mitzvoth yet their shortcoming was sinat chinam, baseless hatred. Yet the talmud further explains that despite being sinful First Temple Jewish society declared their belief and reliance on G-D. Whereas the ostensibly pious Jews of the Second Temple are called wicked people. The Talmud notes that the first exile involved identifiable sins for which repentance would be accessible experienced a short exile for a fixed period. However, the Second Temple’s sin was subtle in nature so that sensitivity to its magnitude is elusive, so that awareness of the imperative to repent this behavior lies beyond the ken of consciousness so the end of the present exile is similarly open ended. (see Ben Yohayada ZT’L ZY’A commentary on Yoma 9b)
The analysis of the Talumd excerpted above is fascinating. Imagine idol worshippers and murders are equated with pious folk harboring hatred for another. Further imagine the people alive at the time of the Second Temple’s destruction were the sages of the Mishnah whose names are familiar to the Jewish Nation were guilty of baseless hatred. Or were they? The Talmud in Gittin 55b-56a relates the story of Kamza and Bar Kamtza. The Talmud does not divulge much information who the host of the party was, other than being someone who included the Rabbis on his guest list. What prompted Bar Kamza to act on his humiliation by denouncing the nation to their Roman overlords? Bar Kamza observed that Rabbis were in attendance, saw what happened to me and did nothing.
The Talmud both in Nedarim 81a and Bava Metzia 85a-b observe that “Why was the land was lost? because they did not preface their Torah Study with a beginning blessing. Rashi ZT’L ZY’A in Bava Mitzia notes omission of the prefatory blessing belies an attitude that this gift [the Torah] is just not that important to the people.
Consider reading these two passage together that there is a connecting thread between the presence of baseless hatred and failing to recite blessings before engaging in Torah study. The Ben Ish Chai of Baghdad ZT’L ZY’A in his commentary, Ben Yehoyada on Nedarim 81a opines the blessing referred to is indeed the first blessing “ . . [engage] in the words of Torah” which the Ben Ish Chai identifies with the study of sod, the hidden aspect of Torah, Sod, relates to the spiritual side of Torah where the connection between spiritual and physical is clearly defined.
Imagine if one fails to develop an awareness that Torah is not limited to G-D’s commandments applied to the physical world but means by which the physical and spiritual realms are connected. If one does not understand the world in the context of G-D’s creation hate becomes possible. However, if one is attuned to the inherent unity of creation’s fabric hatred of another means hating G-D Himself,
As the 1,941 years of exile reaches its anniversary maybe it is an appropriate time to delve into each person’s to reflect on faith and through prayer how to overcome the ancients’ sin and stand as one nation in unity all children of a common Creator.This may be the very path to ensure this year will be the last the 9th of Av is observed as a day of mourning